Maybe it's time to get the band back together. On top of all the other stuff Apple announced yesterday (March 7), including a new iPad and Apple TV, the company demonstrated a new version of its Garageband music app that can sync tracks up and down to iCloud, and a new Jam Sessions feature that lets up to four people play music together at the same time in the same room, using Bluetooth or WiFi.
The new Garageband for iOS also includes "smart strings" (pictured) which helps you add string arrangements to your composition with help from artificial intelligence to pick the right notes; and a new note editor, which lets you fix mistakes or adjust notes without replaying the part (updated). It also lets users share songs to Facebook, YouTube, SoundCloud and iMovie, as well as sharing songs via iTunes and Mail.
The iCloud compatibility is a nice touch -- however, it would be nicer if it allowed remote collaboration on the same song, where band members can add tracks separately and keep them all in sync. Instead, it just lets you log into your songs from multiple iOS devices that are registered to you (updated). The real-time "Jam Session" feature is potentially more interesting, in terms of turning Garageband into something musicians might actually use, if only for a laugh. Hey, it could be worth it; the current version only costs $5, and besides, Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz recorded a whole album on his iPad -- and that was just by himself.
Jam Sessions will only be available for the keyboard, piano, and guitar instruments within the Garageband app, we assume, and not real instruments you've plugged in to your iOS device (because those already work just fine for real-time collaboration). As suspected, you'll be able to record these sessions in order to edit and/or publish them, just like you would in a real studio (updated). However, Jam Sessions needs some processing juice; it runs on all iPads, iPhone 4 or later, and iPod touch (4th generation), but not previous (i.e. slower) models.
We should find out later today, when the new version of Garageband goes on sale for the same $5 the previous version cost, according to Ars Technica's liveblog. If you already own the Garageband app, you'll be able to upgrade to the new version for free, in order to start jamming with your friends in real-time if you're in the same room -- or (hopefully) via iCloud, even if you're not in the same city.